Hidden Mountain Hiking Near Downtown L.A.
The Verdugos are a mountain island in the midst of metropolitan Los Angeles. Although the 13-mile-long range is surrounded by millions of people, the cities of Burbank, Glendale, La Canada-Flintridge, Los Angeles, Pasadena and four freeways, few hikers have discovered it.
This walk on the eastern side of the Verdugo Mountains offers a number of options, including a six-mile loop, a ridgeline ramble and the chance to climb the range’s 3,126-foot signature summit, Verdugo Peak. In addition, a walk on a clear day to the top of the eastern crest offers a great geography lesson.
Early roads were constructed on the eastern edge of the San Fernando Valley in orientation with the Verdguo Mountains--that is, northeast/southwest or northwest/southeast. As Los Angeles spread into the valley, and vice versa, newer roads were built on strictly compass-point coordination: north to south, east to west.
Directions to trail head: From the Glendale Freeway (California 2) in Glendale, exit on Mountain Street and head west a short distance to Verdugo Road. Turn right (north), forking to the left onto Canada Boulevard. Just before the Oakmont Country Club, turn left onto Country Club Drive, then left onto Beaudry Boulevard. Park near the trail head, which is at the intersection of the boulevard and Beaudry Terrace.
If, instead of hiking the Beaudry Loop, you’d prefer a one-way walk through the Verdugos, you’ll have to arrange a car shuttle or get a friend to pick you up. Here’s how to reach the Whiting Woods trail head (the hike’s end point): From the Foothill Freeway (Interstate 210) in La Crescenta, exit on Pennsylvania Avenue and head south. Just as Pennsylvania bends southeast, continuing as Honolulu Way, look right for Whiting Woods Drive and follow it to road’s end.
The hike: Begin along a paved length of fire road, pass a vehicle barrier and continue on a dirt road a quarter-mile to a fork in the road. Bear right on unsigned Beaudry North Fire Road. The road ascends a steep mile and passes a narrow ravine on the left. A rough path enters the ravine, which is watered by a little creek. It’s a tranquil but often mosquito-plagued place to take a break.
Another mile’s ascent brings you to the mountains’ main road: Verdugo Fire Road. Loop hikers will turn left and ascend half a mile toward a forest of radio towers. From the antennae-covered peaklet, the road descends another half-mile to a fork. The right branch drops down to Glendale’s Sunshine Drive, but you descend left to the junction a quarter-mile short of the trail head, then retrace your steps to your starting point.
Those hikers bound for Henderson Canyon will turn right on Verdugo Fire Road. The road levels for a bit, and in half a mile brings you to a major intersection, perhaps the hub of the Verdugos’ trail network. Here, two trails drop south off the mountain crest--to Brand Park and to Sunset Canyon. You can sit on a strategically placed bench and enjoy your geography lesson to the south, or you can stand and take in the view to the north.
Continue on Verdugo Fire Road a long mile to Whiting Woods Road on your right. (If you want to visit Verdugo Peak, it’s another mile up the road.) Whiting Woods Road switch-backs down the ridge separating Sheep Corral Canyon to your left and Henderson Canyon to your right. Two winding miles of descent bring you to the bottom of Henderson Canyon and trail’s end at paved Whiting Woods Road.
Verdugo Mountains. Beaudry, Verdugo, Whiting Woods Fire Roads Where: Eastern end of Verdugo Mountains, San Fernando Valley. Distance: Loop around Beaudry; Canyon is 6 miles round trip, with 1,300-foot elevation gain; Beaudry Canyon to Henderson Canyon 7 1/2 miles one way. Degree of difficulty: Moderate to challenging. Highlights: Introduction to little-used mountain range; city and valley views. Terrain: Steep, brush-covered hills. Precautions: Don’t try this one on a hot day or during smog alert. For more information: Contact the Mountain Parks Information Service at (800) 533-7275